Watch: Bronze Age find at Fenland quarry ‘out-Pompeiis Pompeii’

Archaeologist Selina Davenport works on the site of a Bronze Age settlement destroyed in a fire 3,00

Archaeologist Selina Davenport works on the site of a Bronze Age settlement destroyed in a fire 3,000 years ago, at Must Farm quarry in Cambridgeshire. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The best collection of Bronze Age household goods ever found in Britain is helping archaeologists create 'a full colour image' of life 3,000 years ago.

Finds from prehistoric roundhouses at Must Farm quarry, Whittlesey, in Cambridgeshire, which have been dubbed the 'Pompeii of the Fens', include complete sets of pots and Europe's finest set of fabrics from the era.

Britain's biggest Bronze Age collections of glass and household metalwork such as knives, sickles, spears and razors have also been found, along with wooden items thought to be parts of furniture.

The roundhouses were built on stilts by the river, but were destroyed by fire with the remains plunging into the water and preserved over millennia in the silt below.

The £1.4m project to excavate the site, funded by government heritage agency Historic England, and quarry-owners Forterra, was launched amid concerns over the long-term preservation of the archaeology.


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As the dig – led by Cambridge University's Cambridge Archaeological Unit – draws to a close, archaeologists revealed the roundhouses had only stood on the site for a matter of months before they were destroyed.

The find has 'out-Pompeiied Pompeii', the Roman city buried under volcanic ash, site director of the excavation Mark Knight suggested, because the site preserves a domestic settlement as it was 3,000 years ago in 'fantastic condition'.

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'Our settlement, we believe, was built in winter and burned down in summer. Its brevity has given us this fantastic snapshot of life 3,000 years ago,' he said.

At least five roundhouses have been found, while the experts believe the settlement was probably around twice that size.

A fire investigator is just beginning to look at details of the site to reconstruct the blaze that destroyed it, but it seems the whole settlement burned rather than a fire spreading unevenly – suggesting a deliberate act, such as hostility or a ritual event.

No bodies have been found, except for a few bones including a skull, nicknamed 'Granny'.

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